Sunday, February 03, 2013

A Tangle of Knots, by Lisa Graff

"Haven't you ever had anything you loved doing, Mom?...Something that was worth getting in real big trouble for?" ( Will Asher - arc p. 200)

This is a world where people either have a Talent or are simply Fair.  Talents can range from the ability to knit anything at a quick pace (Mrs. Asher) to the ability to spit with choreographic grace and accuracy (Zane).

Cady lives in an orphanage in Poughkeepsie New York with Miss Mallory.  Each of them has a talent that drives their lives.  Cady has a talent for baking.  She can size up a person and know exactly what kind of cake to bake that will bring them the most possible happiness.  Miss Mallory has a talent for making matches, which has led to her matching countless parentless children with the right families.  Even though Miss Mallory has attempted to match Cady in the past, it has never been the perfect match.  The tug in her chest hasn't been enough to place Cady with the right family.

Meanwhile, in town, the Owner of the Lost Luggage Emporium has been on a lifelong quest.  He believes that a piece of lost luggage holds the secret to his success.  He has been trying to track down the powder blue St. Anthony suitcase that he lost 53 years prior.  The loss has turned him bitter, and Toby who works with the Owner, is subject to his random temper and tirades.

Also in town are the Asher family.  The aforementioned Zane hasn't always yielded his talent for good, and the words of his school Principal haunt him, as his misguided attempts to help his family bring him nothing but trouble.  Zane's sister Marigold is desperately searching for her own talent, as she tries to keep not only Zane, but little brother Will (who has a talent for disappearing) out of trouble.

Add a bake-off, recipes, attempted adoption, archeological crime, a mysterious wordless stranger, a wayward ferret and an in-and-out narrator dressed in a gray suit, and you have A Tangle of Knots.  I know I haven't done the best with plot summary, but that is because Graff's story defies description.  Story-lines dance and weave, short chapters keep the forward motion, and the reader finds him/herself trying to predict what will come next.  That said, I can't help but throw in the idea of the mash-up/remix with titles like Savvy, The Westing Game and Pie coming to mind.  Not bad company to be in.  While A Tangle of Knots most definitely pays homage, I do think Graff has made this all her own.  The moment I finished reading, I wanted to go back and re-read to fit the pieces together.